‘Steve Wright was doing that present for 40 years – nothing goes on ceaselessly’

‘Steve Wright was doing that present for 40 years – nothing goes on ceaselessly’

On a windy night time in Dartford, Tony Blackburn is doing what he’s been doing for six many years: entertaining the viewers over a microphone with a mix of cheer, cheese and pop music.

“I do know what you’re considering,” the veteran DJ is saying to the gang on the Orchard West theatre who’ve turned out for the touring, live-band incarnation of his Sounds of the 60s radio present. “Every time I come out, you all flip to one another, saying: ‘I believed he’d be taller…’ It’s very hurtful! I was taller! However as you grow old, you regularly shrink. Is anyone right here shrinking?”

“YES!” comes the hearty reply of 1,000 followers who’ve most likely been listening to this radio establishment so long as he’s been on the airwaves, first on pirate station Radio Caroline after which by his many many years’ service on BBC Radio 1 and, latterly, Radio 2.

Why, although, are we right here in Dartford on a college night time? Particularly when the octogenarian important attraction is on the air at breakfast time tomorrow.

“God is aware of! You inform me!” this grandfather-of-two tells me. To be truthful, when not in a radio studio, Blackburn has spent his profession on Britain’s highways and byways, en path to entertaining the folks. Many will recall Seventies TV selection present Seaside Particular, and that point in Torbay when Blackburn sang Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Ole Oak Tree to some lions. “The lion tamer, he had stitches all down his arm. He mentioned: ‘One in all them bought me final week. However so long as you keep subsequent to me, you’ll be alright.’

‘Steve Wright was doing that present for 40 years – nothing goes on ceaselessly’‘Steve Wright was doing that present for 40 years – nothing goes on ceaselessly’

Veteran DJ Tony Blackburn – David Rose

“I requested: ‘What occurs if I drift away?’ ‘Oh, they’ll get you…’, he replied. I imply, they couldn’t do it now due to well being and security.” Blackburn sounds nearly wistful.

Knocking on for 60 years since he launched Radio 1 as a 24-year-old taking part in to nearly half the UK inhabitants, Blackburn is having a second. And one which transcends the lazy assumption that he’s, to all intents and functions, Alan Partridge’s dad. Effectively, there are shades of Steve Coogan’s DJ, however he’s way more than that: a music-obsessed, still-gigging repository of British broadcasting historical past blessed, nonetheless, with each his personal hips.

5 years after it launched, Blackburn’s Sound of the 60s tour nonetheless packs them in yearly. He’s newly ennobled with an OBE for companies to broadcasting and charity. All we want now’s a reprint of his exceptional 2007 biography Poptastic! My Life in Radio, whereby Blackburn revelled in his stoutly retro opinions.

Is it actually true that he most popular Alvin Stardust to Ziggy Stardust?

“Oh, yeah. Funnily sufficient, I’m not a Bowie fan. I’ve at all times veered extra in the direction of soul music.”

And that he didn’t like Bohemian Rhapsody? “It’s simply not my type of factor,” he tells me now. “I jokingly mentioned to Brian Could: ‘I’ve by no means heard Bohemian Rhapsody proper the way in which by. It’s such an extended report, and we needed to do such lengthy reveals, I’d go to the john, come again and it’d solely be three-quarters of the way in which by.’ He laughed, however there was a specific amount of reality to that.”

Tony Blackburn with his wife DebbieTony Blackburn with his wife Debbie

Tony Blackburn along with his spouse Debbie – Myung Jung Kim

Then there was an earlier e-book’s declare that he had slept with 250 girls. What does Debbie, Blackburn’s spouse of 31 years, take into consideration that? “Oh, she’s all proper with it!”

Welcoming me into his dressing room earlier than showtime, it’s clear that the road between Blackburn the broadcaster and Blackburn the person is as skinny as the road on an outdated radio tuning dial. The dad jokes come thick and quick and, in the event that they’re price saying as soon as, they’re price saying thrice. One “gag” about potholes is repeated on stage after which on Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 Breakfast Present the next morning. As a part of the BBC’s sixtieth anniversary celebrations of former rival Radio Caroline, Blackburn “hijacks” her programme. “The pirates are again!” Blackburn bugles over the airwaves. “Zoe Ball has been locked out of the studio! I’m right here, anarchy as soon as once more!”

The reality on the pirate ships, he admits to me, was moderately totally different. “We had been allowed two tins of beer a day. I didn’t smoke, however they got 200 cigarettes every week. It was all very rigorously run.”

He insists it was nothing like The Boat That Rocked, Richard Curtis’s seasickness-inducing 2009 movie. “That was ridiculous. All these of us who had been on the market on the ships, we hated that movie. We had been there for a severe purpose: to attempt to break the BBC monopoly [of the airwaves], and convey about business radio. So it was run very professionally.”

So it wasn’t ocean-going intercourse, medicine and rock’n’roll?

“Nothing like that in any respect. They made out [in the film] that we had been a load of drunks having events and had a great deal of ladies on board. There have been no ladies! There was one woman that got here on board, referred to as Twinkle – we carry out her track within the present, Terry,” he says of a 1964 hit he’ll cheerfully dismiss as “dreary” onstage. “She stayed the night time for a publicity stunt to advertise her report. And that was it.”

Skilled to the final, he’s equally dedicated to the Beeb, at the same time as high-profile friends resembling Ken Bruce have left for well-remunerated reveals on business radio. Has he been tempted, although?

“No. However I’ve had, not too long ago really, a number of presents. However I simply love working there… And so they’re very good to me. I actually just like the BBC. This nation can be a poorer place if it wasn’t there.”

Blackburn’s Tigger-ish enthusiasm is each conserving him younger and conserving him blissful at work.

However how did he hold on to that when he was taken off the air in 2016? Blackburn was dismissed throughout Dame Janet Smith’s inquiry into the tradition and practices of the BBC when Jimmy Savile labored there. Blackburn’s proof, in response to an allegation made towards him in 1971, was deemed unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, he was later reinstated and Smith’s evaluate made no findings concerning the allegations.

For a second, his sunny disposition fades. “I can’t speak about that, I’m sorry,” says Blackburn, a person used to talking freely from the center. “It’s one factor I can’t… However I believe we’ve all moved on from there, hopefully.”

Blackburn with fellow DJs Steve Wright (centre) and Paul Gambaccini, (right) in 2002Blackburn with fellow DJs Steve Wright (centre) and Paul Gambaccini, (right) in 2002

Blackburn with fellow DJs Steve Wright (centre) and Paul Gambaccini, (proper) in 2002 – PA Pictures / Alamy Inventory Photograph

I ask about his good pal, the late Steve Wright, who misplaced his Radio Two afternoon present in 2022. Does Blackburn suppose Wright was handled nicely by the BBC?

“I believe so. So far as I do know. He by no means mentioned something on the contrary to me. He was doing that present within the afternoon for 40 years or one thing like that. I imply, nothing goes on ceaselessly, does it? I keep in mind saying to Steve when he got here off that present: ‘It’s fairly good simply to chill out slightly bit.’ And he agreed with me.”

Our time is up, as Blackburn has to return to the stage and to the mic – his blissful place. Does he have such a factor as a retirement plan?

“I’ve no want to retire in any respect. The one factor I’ll do is – and I’ve mentioned this to my spouse, and to the top of Radio 2, Helen Thomas – I [don’t want to become] embarrassing. If I really feel I’m not doing the job in addition to I ought to do, and stumble over issues or one thing like that, then I’ll give it up.”

He a minimum of, I counsel, has to make it to 2027, the sixtieth anniversary of the launch of Radio 1.

“Effectively, if I get there! I’m simply making an attempt to get to the tip of this tour.”

Tony Blackburn’s Sounds of the 60s Reside UK tour runs till November, tickets obtainable at ticketmaster.co.uk

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